NCAA Tournament Sweet 16: Xavier, Creighton, and Alabama Looking to Make History


Mar 24, 2023

Half of last night’s field had won a Men’s College Basketball National Title, with Blue Blood UCLA among the basketball schools taking the court. Programs like Connecticut and Michigan State are just outside that elite status. Arkansas has a strong hoops history, and Gonzaga is the epitome of “New Blood,” one of the premier programs over the past two decades.

Tonight, not so much. None of the eight schools have ever won a national championship; only two have made it to the title game, while more than half (five) are still looking for their program’s first Final Four bid.

This group of eight has three college football powers, the only three programs playing tonight that have been part of a power conference for over a decade. The opportunities to create history are endless. 

Before we compare Nate Oats’s Alabama team to Nick Saban’s, understand the Crimson Tide have never made the Final Four, which they are a big favorite to do this weekend (-145). With a win Friday (-330), ‘Bama would make just the second Elite Eight in program history.

The 2013-14 Tide overcame a five-game regular-season losing streak to make the Big Dance. Alabama survived Southen Illinois (65-64) in their opening game before they upset No. 1 Stanford in the second round. This time they are the hunted.

Alabama’s opponent, San Diego State, can make history tonight. The Aztecs have made the Sweet 16 just twice prior (2011, 2014) and have never advanced to the Elite Eight.

The odds are not in their favor as San Diego State is +260 to upset Alabama and +650 to win the South Region.

There is no longer shot than Princeton. Of the four schools in the South Region, the Tigers are the only program to make the Final Four, which they did in 1965, led by future Hall of Famer Bill Bradley, which was also the only time they advanced to the Elite Eight. This is their first Sweet 16 since 1967.

The Ivy League school is +390 to pull off the upset tonight, the biggest regional semifinal underdog, and +2500 to win the South Region. No other school has longer odds than +700 to go to the Final Four. Princeton’s +18000 odds to win their first Natty is also an outlier.

Standing in their way is Creighton, who is looking to make the Elite Eight for the first time since 1941. They’re -530 to do so, but if the Bluejays are to break through to the Final Four for the first time, they will have to knock off the top-seeded Tide.

The Big East program is legit, and their odds of winning the region (+175) give them a realistic shot.

Shifting to the Midwest Region, 1-seed Houston has had numerous highs as a program, including a Final Four in 2021. They are most known for the Phi Slama Jama era in the 1980s when Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler had the Cougs in the National Championship Game in 1983 and 1984.

Kelvin Sampson’s group isn’t quite as talented, but he has the team to be the first ever out of H-Town to cut down the nets. They are the Midwest Region favorite (-110) and have the second-shortest Natty odds (+410).

Texas is also a true contender at +1000 to win it all and +190 to win the region. Their three Final Fours are the most of any program taking the floor tonight, with 2003 behind stellar point guard T.J. Ford, their most recent run.

The Longhorns have never made the championship game. Is interim coach Rodney Terry the one to get them over the hump?

Looking to knock off the ‘Horns is Xavier, who is searching for the program’s first-ever Final Four appearance. The Musketeers are +155 tonight against Texas and +600 to make school history with a trip to Houston.

Last but not least–they’re ahead of Princeton–is Miami. Before last season, the ‘Canes had never made the Elite Eight, so headman Jim Larrañaga and star guard Isaiah Wong are no strangers to making history.

Can they do it again? To do so, they’d have to win two games to advance to the Final Four. At +700, they’re the long shot in the Midwest Region

Thumbnail photo via Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

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